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Grades Dropping? Hope You Like Taking the Bus…

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Controversy is brewing at the State University of New York at Old Westbury, where school officials have recently started to enforce an old rule that requires on-campus residents to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA.

The New York Times reports that one student, whose grades slipped due to an illness during exam week, received a letter informing her of this policy only days before the spring semester. She was also dropped from the meal plan, and her ID card no longer allowed her access to her dorm, making even clearing out her belongings difficult.

Some schools, such as Seton Hall and SUNY Farmingdale, have GPA minimums as well, but lack Old Westbury’s zero tolerance policy, instead offering tutoring and academic monitoring to low-performing students. Other schools offer free or reduced-rate housing to those with high GPAs.

For students with low GPAs, being kicked out of their dorm because of grades means commuting several hours each day or struggling to find affordable apartments–often impossible in small college towns, especially half way through the school year.

I do think all students should be encouraged to strive for higher grades, but, as with the student who became ill during exams, that’s not always possible. There are other ways to promote academic achievement, such as well-staffed tutoring centers and committed academic advisers. As one student at Old Westbury noted, it’s possible for the policy to have an adverse effect: students with low GPAs who suddenly find themselves without on campus accommodation might be forced to simply drop out before they have a chance to pull their GPA up.

What do you think? Should students with bad grades be punished by having their housing revoked? Does a housing-as-incentive policy encourage or discourage academic achievement?

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